IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE HEAT IN THE KITCHEN, THEN REDESIGN THE KITCHEN

My parents realized I loved to play baseball and that I was talented. My mother assessed that I played to have friends and quickly she changed my style of play. “When you step onto that field you will be booed and hissed at. People will say horrible things and they might throw things at you. Your goal is to quiet them with your great play. Show them you love baseball. If I, your mother, crowds the plate, you knock me down. You understand.”

I view the world through the eyes of a baseball player. You perform or you find a note on your locker. There is no crying, begging or equal rights. You perform, shut the crowd down and you can play again tomorrow. Cold but true. You are either a business asset or a liability. Guess who plays tomorrow?

This is a story about writing groups. I belong to three writing groups. Two of the groups work under the model that you read, the listeners critique and everyone is happy. This violates a cardinal rule of psychology — not everyone plays nice or even understands the rules. Here the rotten apple rule comes into play. You get one rotten apple and the whole group dissolves.In my world there would be a note on your locker.

“Oh but you can’t hurt someone’s feelings or ban them from an open group” Yes you can but to show how baseball works, they lowered the mound then shorten the strike zone and enforced the game clock. They redesigned the kitchen, so to speak.

Sorry but I say nice things about really poor writing because I want you to like me. If given the chance I would rewrite the whole thing in a style that I feel is appropriate. In essence taking away your voice.

I have a fellow writer who repeatedly says, “If you are not going to publish, then why write” That is wrong on so many levels. As a neuropsychologist for 31 years the single best therapeutic technique is to write. Not to publish but to look at your thoughts.

Don’t need to think outside the box as much as create your own new box.

In keeping with my baseball mentality I would change the height of the mound. Everybody (group members now enjoin you in writing rather than criticize) gets to read whatever they choose. The writer gives out double spaced copies and the critique is to rewrite, add, edit, suggest. You then have the option to read YOUR rewrite, ask questions open dialog with the writer. You show don’t tell. This promotes interaction, gives ideas, encourages writing, not reading and eliminates the person who complains because they have to do what they might have criticized. Everybody wins.

Because the WRITING is so intense and shared the writer must make a request for his material and is allotted a half hour to get what he or she needs. Because others are writing as well there is no downside except some people don’t want to write. (time for a locker note)

This was so successful in a group I attended that famous writers attended. In order to get into the group you had to submit your work. It didn’t start that way but became so popular that they had to slow the crowd at the door. They tried splitting the group but that violated another psychological rule. They are still running and they claim the most published book club in the U.S.

I would attend with a book chapter, explain my goals and gave the handout without reading. The group members each rewrote my chapter and the feedback was a learning experience for ALL. I learned so much about technique. Right now you get a regression toward the mean. The group demands a certain type of material, “too long, “too short” are words that are not spoken. Wordy, loose. extraneous are euphemisms but the length may be the voice.

The poets started their own group. They tended to be arrogant and snobbish and the writers were happy with their departure. But they shared readings with each other instead of public readings and that proved successful and motivating.

The group later evolved into experts. Some offered information on poetry, beginnings, endings, characters, marketing. This spawned great ideas for plots and POVs. I returned to say hello recently and they changed again. (a good ball player adapts to the situation). They opened up a teaching section to separate it from the writing session. It turns out the same people attend both because the quality is so good.

CHANGE THE DESIGN.

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